PickupUSA, Wine & Design and Nothing Bundt Cakes talk about their franchise development strategies.
While franchise brands can employ common techniques to draw in potential franchisees and grow, every brand is unique with its own set of core values. They know what matters most to them, and they each have that special touch to make sure they find the right fit.
Three fast-growing brands - PickupUSA, Wine & Design and Nothing Bundt Cakes - shared their franchise development strategy, what they look for in potential franchisees and their company’s top values.
PickupUSA is for the basketball lovers. The company started in 2011 and opened its first gym in the spring of 2012. The company’s aim: provide a better basketball experience - complete with referees - for enthusiasts of the sport who might otherwise have to deal with a tense pickup experience.
“That was a unique concept at the time and we just wanted to create a business and a gym that provided a better basketball experience for people,” PickupUSA president and founder Jordan Meinster said. “There are millions of people across the country that play pickup basketball but typically the experience isn’t great for them. It’s just kind of a scene of arguments and it’s intimidating for people and it’s inefficient, things of that nature. So we created our business to be pickup basketball with referees. It’s timed games. It’s more organized. It’s more efficient. It’s more fun. There are refs out there.”
PickupUSA grew and developed its model over the years and expanded, adding services such as group basketball training, private basketball training and a full fitness center.
The company opened its first franchise in 2017, and there are currently five franchises open and five more in development.
The company opened three gyms and signed an additional three franchise agreements in 2018. New PickupUSA locations are expected to open in the first and second quarters of 2019.
What really contributes to the brand’s success is the focus on current franchises and franchisees.
“We’re very, very focused on unit-level economics,” Meinster said. “We’re a new franchise company so our objective is really focused on making sure that these first franchises that open up are making money and getting good returns for the franchise owners. To us, that’s our strategy for growing. We have a cool concept. We get lots of interest, lots of inquiries, and we know that if the franchise owners are successful then the rest will fall into place.” He added that “We focus less on the marketing of our franchise and more on making sure the franchise owners are successful. We believe that’s our path to really scaling this thing.”
PickupUSA looks for two major things when screening prospective franchisees: a love of basketball and a good head for business. While the concept is fun, it is still a business.
“It’s a fun business, but it is a business and you have to be disciplined, you have to be able to put in the work,” Meinster said. “Those are kind of our two big checkboxes - making sure that somebody is in line with what we’re looking to do and has a passion for this business and also has an understanding of the fact that you do need to make money at it and we communicate that to people just taking them through our standard discovery process. We try to be very upfront and forthright about what we’re looking for and we provide the same to them.”
Meinster described PickupUSA as being very systems-focused, which pays off when working with prospective franchisees. Prospective franchisees are drawn in by the unique concept, the systems in place and the high level of franchisee support.
“We’re on the ground with our franchise owners in very, very consistent contact with them at all hours of each day,” Meinster said. “I think people are drawn in by the concept and then they really fall in love with the systems and the support that we have.”
While PickupUSA is certainly interested in growing, its main focus is making sure that existing franchises are doing well.
“We’re taking it very deliberately in terms of the markets we’re going into,” Meinster said. “We’re not out there trying to get to 100 locations by 2021 or some objective like that. Our philosophy is really just we would rather have 10 locations open that are all doing really well than open up 100 locations and some of them aren’t doing well. From a development strategy that’s 100 percent our focus, is just unit-level economics and success.”
With 81 locations, Wine & Design focuses on providing top-notch support for its existing franchisees. The company started franchising in 2011, and it has put a lot of thought and care into its growth approach.
“We have not spent a lot of time or resources marketing specifically for franchise development but instead have taken our time to build support for our franchisees and a strong infrastructure to support future growth,” franchise sales manager Sheri Hill said in an email. “Because of this, almost all of our growth has been organic. Many of our franchise partners were at one point a customer or artist. Our high standards for customer service and portfolio of paintings has allowed us to grow through referrals and in-studio experiences.”
The biggest compliment Wine & Design gets from prospective and current franchisees is that the brand is fresh, modern and sophisticated, Hill said in an email. Wine & Design is also noted by franchisees for having an excellent support system.
“We have so many beautifully designed resources for our franchise partners to use and that helps us to create consistency in creating that high-end feel we're looking for,” Hill said in an email. “We also get a lot of great feedback about our customer service and accessibility. Everyone on our team makes themselves available to leads and our franchisees. Our CEO loves to hear from anyone wanting to talk business or just brainstorm strategy. Our leads and partners know they're valued from day one, and that's something they can feel through their very first interaction with our team.”
When the company first started franchising in 2011, it gave franchisees some leeway to “be who they are,” CEO and founder Harriet Mills said. In 2015, Wine & Design went through a rebranding.
“This way we kind of got control of the brand,” Mills said, adding that it’s led to more franchise unity as a whole.
The efforts paid off.
“We had such a great response from our franchisees,” Mills said, adding that the company gave franchisees “good pricing as well as a lot of time to change over to the new brand.”
The brand is looking to expand west, including California and Arizona.
Wine & Design franchisees are impressed by the systems the company has in place and the constant office support, Mills said.
“I think when they come to training they are so in awe of all the things we’ve done for them,” Mills said.
Prospective franchisees should also know that Wine & Design offers a variety of divisions, including painting wood palettes, painting glasses and painting pumpkins.
“We really want to make these franchisees have extra potential revenue streams to come in,” Mills said.
Prospective franchisees looking to join Wine & Design should also be aware of the company’s values.
“Our mission is to create the most fun art experience for anyone wanting a fresh, surprising way to connect with the people in their lives,” Hill said in an email. “We know that individuals who are connected to their community and have a passion for creating relationships combined with a passion for the brand will always succeed. Our values are to have fun, be reliable, be empowering, be inspiring, and be innovative. Through those values, we have created a network of support and strong channels of communication. We communicate these values internally. Externally, we emphasize fun and connection. Through social media and newsletters, we remind our customer that we are a venue for creativity, where you can unplug, unwind, and make memories.”
This bundt cake brand was founded in 1997 in Las Vegas by Debra Shwetz and Dena Tripp, and it has grown tremendously since then. Today, the brand has more than 270 bakeries across the United States and Canada.
When it comes to franchising, the brand is deliberate in its growth strategy.
“In growing our bakery community, we are focused on rational growth in a way that will grow and increase awareness of our brand across the country while complementing and allowing for the continued success of our current bakeries,” chief development officer Chris Bremer said in an email. “We receive a large number of inquiries about our franchising program each year, and we are looking to grow in a way that expands our brand to new territories, like the Northeast. Over the next few years, we anticipate maintaining our current bakery-opening cadence with 40-50 new bakeries across the country each year.”
As the brand works with prospective franchisees, it makes sure to communicate its values. The brand also takes its relationship with its franchisees very seriously.
“Nothing Bundt Cakes strives to make the franchise model very personal,” Bremer said in an email. “As the brand and number of bakery owners have grown, Nothing Bundt Cakes has always kept its focus on the strength of the concept, the quality of the product and the passion of the people in each of the bakeries. The ability for the brand to be authentic, genuine and caring is the result of high product standards and bakery owner dedication to serving their communities. Every Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery is designed to elicit a sense of warmth and joy from the moment you walk in.”
Bremer noted that franchisee candidates for Nothing Bundt Cakes often start out as customers.
“New bakery owner leads most often arise out of someone eating the cake, loving it and deciding to check into the brand,” Bremer said in an email.
Also, Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise owners are mostly female - more than 90 percent, to be exact.
“The founders’ original balance of motherhood and focus on quality, family and service as the core of the Nothing Bundt Cakes brand have also made it very appealing to women,” Bremer said in an email. “We believe this has contributed to the fact that more than 90 percent of Nothing Bundt Cakes bakeries are female-owned. Nothing Bundt Cakes record steady revenue gains and, on average, experience double-digit sales gains year-over-year. In fact, 90 percent of Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery owners would decide to franchise with the brand again and would recommend a Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery to someone considering franchising.”